Home Sales Should Be Higher—But They’re Not

Following population trends, the U.S. should be adding more than a million households each year for the next few years, economists note in Freddie Mac’s April Outlook report. But higher housing costs and a delay in younger adults’ buying are prompting an uptick in shared living arrangements, multigenerational households, and delayed household formation.

A shortage of homes for sale continues to press on many markets across the country. The number of single-family homes available for sale in the U.S. in February was 1.41 million units, less than half of the inventory peak in 2007, according to data from the National Association of REALTORS®.

Researchers predict that home sales will rise from 6.12 million in 2017 to 6.3 million in 2018, and to 6.44 million in 2019. They are forecasting that new home sales will be a significant driver in home sales over the next few months.

Source: “Nothing Draws a Crowd Like a Crowd: The Outlook for Home Sales,” Freddie Mac Outlook (April 2018)

Warning of Russian Cyberattacks to Private Homes

The U.S. and Britain have issued a warning about Russian cyberattacks that could extend to individual homes. The warning was the first of its kind, The New York Times reports. The warning extends to possible cyberattacks to government and private organizations in both countries as well.

The countries are asking the public to upgrade passwords and computer security to make themselves less vulnerable. U.S. and U.K. officials are warning that Russians are tapping into internet-connected devices in homes and businesses. Hackers allegedly could secretly inserting themselves into the exchange of data between a computer or server to eavesdrop, collect confidential information, misdirect payments, etc.

The officials said that the full extent of Russia’s ability to penetrate Western computer networks is still unknown.

More information at source: “U.S.-U.K. Warning on Cyberattacks Includes Private Homes,” The New York Times (April 16, 2018)

Seniors’ Growing Debt Casts Retirement Doubts

The percentage of families in which the head of household is 75 or older and carrying debt grew by 60 percent between 2007 and 2016, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. In 2016, nearly 50 percent of such families had debt; the average debt was $36,757. Meanwhile, the average monthly Social Security check is $1,404, and more than 40 percent of single adults receive more than 90 percent of their income from Social Security alone, according to government data. Many may find Social Security payouts aren’t sufficient to maintain their lifestyle and pay off debt.

“To pay off the debt, you’re going to have to give up some living standards,” says Craig Copeland, a senior associate with the Employee Benefit Research Institute. For some homeowners, that may mean having to relocate to a place where the cost of living is less expensive. “They may be able to move into a retirement community, where there may be a better social aspect than living in a house in the suburbs with a bunch of young people,” Copeland says. “Or they may have to move in with a relative or friend to share living expenses.”

Source: “Growing Debt Among Older Americans Threatens Their Retirement,” CNBC (April 4, 2018)

Home Loan Payments Up 13% This Year

Monthly mortgage payments have risen an average of nearly 13 percent nationwide over the last year—or an extra $168—as buyers grapple with both higher home prices and increasing mortgage rates, according to a realtor.com® analysis. Luxury buyers are feeling the worst sticker shock, paying double the rate. In the top 10 percent of the market, owners are now paying an average $241 more per/mo.

Mortgage interest rates are about a half of a percentage point higher than they were at the beginning of the year, and the Federal Reserve has signaled there are more hikes to come.

Different generations of home buyers may have varying tolerance levels for mortgage rate fluctuations. Millennials are pursuing homeownership at a time when interest rates are at historic lows, averaging in the 4 percent range, while older buyers remember when they were in the double digits. So for millennials, “even a minor upswing [in interest rates] may seem significant,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

Source: “Rising Interest Rates Squeeze Homeowners’ Budgets,” The Wall Street Journal (April 4, 2018) [Log-in required.]

Will ‘Granny Flats’ Resolve Housing Shortages?

Some housing economists believe that “granny flats” could be the key to alleviating housing shortages across the country, and they are calling on more municipalities to ease up the rules to allow such dwellings to be built on or into more single-family homes. Nicknamed “granny flats,” these accessory dwelling units tend to be separate, cottage-like structures, but may be a converted garage or basement that houses an extra living area.

In California, three new zoning laws in 2017 allowed for expanded development of granny flats. California has since seen a 63 percent increase in the number of building permits for these units—more than any other state, according to ATTOM Data Solutions, a real estate data firm. But many counties either still have zoning restrictions that don’t allow these units, or they are making the building permit process difficult.

Source: “Could ‘Granny Flats’ Be the Solution to America’s Affordable-Housing Crisis?” MarketWatch (March 26, 2018)

Flood Insurance Premiums Are About to Go Up

Many homeowners and buyers in flood-prone areas will see higher flood insurance premiums starting April 1. The premium hikes, which are required by law, will be as little as 2 percent for some properties and as high as 24 percent for others. On average, the increase will be about 8 percent.

“The National Flood Insurance Program requires premiums to rise on certain classes of properties over a period of years until they’re paying the full actuarial rate on their risk,” say analysts with the National Association of REALTORS®. “The 8 percent average increase is right in the range of increases for the last couple of years, so there’s nothing unusual here. It’s just the standard rate increase.”

Learn more about the rate changes in a bulletin released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the National Flood Insurance Program.

More Homeowners, Appraisers Agree on Values

Homeowners and appraisers are seeing more eye-to-eye when it comes to home values. Appraised values in February were, on average, just 0.53 percent below homeowner estimates—the fifth consecutive month where the gap between the two groups has been less than 1 percent, according to the National Quicken Loans Home Price Perception Index.

When shopping for a home—or even refinancing a current mortgage—consumers should always keep the changes in their local market in mind before estimating a home’s value.”

The Home Price Perception Index chart and other data at article source: Quicken Loans

Renovations Homeowners Are Eyeing This Year

Outdoor improvements, including decks, patios, and landscaping, remained highest on owners’ to-do lists for the fifth consecutive year. Interior renovations also are popular: Nearly a third of homeowners say they plan to remodel a bathroom, and more than one in four say they plan to update their kitchen, according to a recent survey by LightStream Home Improvement

65 percent of survey respondents saying they’ll take on at least some of the work. Thirty-five percent of the group say they’ll do the entire project on their own.

Also, budgets for renovations are increasing. Forty-five percent of homeowners who are planning a renovation project say they’re willing to spend $5,000 or more—a record high for the survey. The number of respondents who plan to spend $35,000 or more doubled from 2017.

Source: “Home Improvement Ramps Up in 2018,” The LightStream blog (Feb. 27, 2018)

Household Net Worth Reaches Record High

Americans are feeling richer. Household net worth neared $100 trillion in the final quarter of last year, falling into record territory, according to new data released by the Federal Reserve on Thursday. Rising stock markets and property prices were attributed to the jolt in the fourth quarter. (Household net worth is the value of all of a consumer’s assets, like stocks and real estate, minus any liabilities like mortgage and credit card debt.)

Household net worth increased more than $2 trillion last quarter to a record $98.7 trillion in the final three months of last year, according to the report. Households in the U.S. saw their net worth increase to nearly seven times their disposable personal income in 2017.

More at source: “U.S. Household Net Worth Pushes Further Into Record Territory,” The Wall Street Journal (March 8, 2018) [Log-in required.] and “Stock Market Lifts U.S. Household Wealth to $98.7 Trillion,” The Associated Press/USA Today (March 8, 2018)

Survey: Home Owners Worried, Buyers Excited

Consumer sentiment is following an unusual trend for a seller’s market: Home buyers are upbeat, but homeowners are less so, according to ValueInsured’s latest quarterly survey of about 1,600 consumers. Why the divergence between buyers and owners? Some homeowners may feel stuck, while buyers are anxious to jump into real estate before home prices and mortgage rates rise further.

Fifty-eight percent of homeowners surveyed say they want to sell but are holding off because they don’t want to purchase again at today’s higher prices. Fifty-nine percent of owners say they believe buyers in their area are overpaying for a home, according to the survey.

Buyers still have plenty of concerns, such as saving for a down payment and eroding housing affordability, particularly in the nation’s hottest housing markets. Some say they are ready to make some sacrifices to afford their first home.

We suggest you view charts and data at: ValueInsured Modern Homebuyer Survey